Forest City Courier May 6, 2005

Forest City Daily Courier: Cathey's Creek plans proceed

 

By JOSH HUMPHRIES Daily Courier Staff Writer

SPINDALE -- AHigh school students may be offered a chance to get some hands-on environmental education if a part of the plan to be implemented by the Cathey's Creek Watershed Advisory Committee comes to fruition.

Cathey's Creek was identified as a project through its assessment as an impaired water system in a recent state Division of Water Quality study of the Broad River Basin.

Employees from the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program and Earth Tech met at the Rutherford County Cooperative Extension office with members of North Carolina State University's Watershed Education for Communities and Local Officials program and officials from the county and towns and other organizations.

Employees of NCEEP noted that a project could be implemented at R-S Central High School to protect a storm-water wetland area on the campus near Westbrook Drive.

Central was selected because it is located in the Cathey's Creek Watershed.

The committee wants to get the students of all three high schools involved in a project to secure the best management plans for the storm water of the campus if possible.

The NCEEP is ready and willing to fund projects all over the Cathey's Creek Watershed to protect and refurbish creeks and waterways.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has a storm water team that is looking for creative ways to manage storm water that could also come with some heavy funding.

The committee is working with local farmers and land owners to monitor branches that have been designated as endangered.

The school project is part of a lengthy list of potential projects in four target areas in the watershed.

John Lewis, Spindale's interim town manager, said that a possible hindering factor to getting people involved with the committee plan for action is that the county and town focus is not environmental and "it falls low on the totem pole of priorities."

Lewis said that the focus is more economic and citizens are more concerned with getting lost jobs and a healthy economy back in the county.

Committee member Jerry Stensland of the Rutherford Outdoor Coalition said that a recreation plan is critical for keeping young adults in the county with activities like paddling and climbing that would benefit from general environmental protection.

An assessment of the watershed -- with its headwaters on Pinnacle Mountain and joined by Lewis, Harris, Mill, Cherry, Hollands, Shepherds and Reynolds creeks before flowing into the Second Broad River, northeast of Spindale -- has been conducted by a team of engineers and water quality experts from Earth Tech, a Raleigh engineering and consulting firm, during the past year.

A technical advisory team, consisting of those with specific local knowledge of the watershed and its soils and waters, was formed to work on the assessment with Earth Tech.

A plan has been developed from the assessment to help address any problems identified

The studies were funded by the DOT, which is required to address some of the environmental issues it might contribute to from certain road projects.

One of the chief projects in the Broad River Basin now is the U.S. 74 Bypass of Shelby, but another -- much closer to Cathey's Creek -- is the future U.S. 221 Bypass of Rutherfordton which could cut a path between Rutherfordton and Spindale.

The state lists Cathey's Creek and Hollands Creek as impaired waters, but a 1999 upgrade to the Spindale wastewater treatment plant is helping to correct the water quality problem, Division of Water Quality officials have said.

The committee is planning a public meeting for the future to address directly any questions and concerns that citizens may have about the best ways to protect the watershed.

Contact Humphries via e-mail at jhumphries@blueridge.net